Sound of Silence

August 20, 2018

 I have always listened to music when I have traveled and when I run. My trusty old iPod Touch has accompanied me around the world on numerous business and holiday trips taking my mind off the flight, the train trip or the pain of the run. That was until my recent holiday.


When I am running somewhere different, I often feel I need to be a bit more aware of my surroundings so on my recent holiday in China, I left the iPod in the room as I went out and explored the various cities which I was visiting. Then when I came back from holiday, I could not find my iPod when I unpacked.


So this posed a bit of a dilemma. I was planning to get back into serious (serious for me) training and long runs once again, but how was I going to cope if I did not have my musical friend to help me through it? God I would have to listen to my laboured breathing, my footsteps, the sound of traffic. The reality? I have actually really enjoyed running without it. This has really surprised me.




Previously when I had run without the iPod in, I had found it quite hard going, but thinking back on it, I think this goes back to when I started running. I started running at the gym, on a treadmill, and the sheer drudgery of that definitely needed me to have some kind of distraction to get through it.Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with treadmill running – for a long time it was my favoured place to get in a few miles – but as I have built up my fitness and increased the mileage I am doing I would always choose to run outside if I have the chance.“stuff it, go without and see what it is like.”


So a couple of short runs in without the music was fine, but last weekend I faced a couple of challenges. The first one was my plan to go for a PB at Parkrun. My thought process was, “this is going to be hard so I might be better off with some music in”, but then I thought, “stuff it, go without and see what it is like”. The run was hard. I have only done one other Parkrun so my PB was 26.03 and I thought THAT was really hard, plus while i might have done a bit of running on holiday I also did a fair amount of drinking and eating shedloads too so I have put on a few pounds that I am desperately trying to shed. But I found without the headphones I concentrated more on my running technique.


My kids recently bought me a book, “The Art of Running Faster” written by former athlete Julian Goater, and I read this while I was away. I am never going to be a serious athlete, but it does contain some fairly simple things that I have tried to implement. But even I was gobsmacked at my time.I had hoped to get sub 26 minutes – and was secretly hoping that they might have a 25 minute pacer. As it happened they had a 24 minute pacer and so I tried to keep my eye on him throughout the run. I lost sight of him a couple of times, but as I came towards the end I saw him finishing not too far ahead and I thought I had a good chance of beating my time. I stopped my Fitbit as I crossed the line and my time? 24mins 28 secs. I could not believe it. Not only was this sub 26, it was sub 25, in fact it was sub 24.30! This was way beyond my expectations, so much so that I instantly began to doubt it.“it meant nothing unless the official time confirmed it.”


When I got back into my car, I launched my Fitbit a pp to sync my run and to check the distance recorded via GPS. There it was 24.28 over 3.05kms. Maybe I had actually done it. But I knew that it meant nothing unless the official time confirmed it, so I had an anxious wait before I got the email from Parkrun with the official time. That time? It was even better – 24.26!! I have written before about being a hobby runner. That’s exactly what I am. I am not trying to be some kind of influencer or expert or anything like that, so while I know for many people 24.26 is not quick for 5K, for me this represents a huge achievement and I think it is having goals like this that are so important.


It is not about how fast anyone else is. It is about achieving what you can, and being satisfied with that.After the 5K, another ipodless challenge. How would I survive a long run without the music? Sunday was an early start in order to get my run done and still leave the rest of the day for family activities, so I was up at 6am to have some breakfast before going back to bed for an hour and heading out the door just after 7am. I like this routine as it simulates the reality of a race day and the gap between eating and running, though on a long race, I will take a bar to nibble on before the start as it is generally longer than an hour between breakfast and getting going.“I was not constantly thinking, “this is awful I feel like I am going to die.”


Again, I was worried about how I would cope. In fact, it was liberating. I was much more aware of my surroundings, much more aware of the scenery around me, and much more aware that I was not constantly thinking, “this is awful I feel like I am going to die”. I find the first few miles challenging before I get into a rhythm, particularly with my breathing, so much so that I often feel better after eight or nine miles than I do after two or three, Sunday morning was the same, but I again had that feeling of concentration that I do not have when I am listening to the music. I was focused on taking things easy, not pushing too hard, and I ended up running further than the half marathon distance for which I am actually training. 


As the race is in my home city, I also ran quite a bit of the route, just to get a feel for it, and as it goes through parts of the city that have not normally been on my running routes it also has a fresh feel about it. Not getting stale or bored with my training is something I work hard to achieve. This was my last planned long run before tapering ahead of the race itself. After the disaster that was my taper for the marathon – when I feel and basically did nothing for almost a month with damaged ribs – I am hoping for a more sedate period this time around, slowly winding down the mileage before the big day.I went for a three mile run early on Tuesday before flying out to Denmark.


After a day working in Odense, I traveled back to stay in a hotel near Copenhagen Airport. I have stayed in this hotel a few times before but this time I noticed a nearby park, so I went out for a leisurely fifty minute run as part of my tapering regime. I have written before about getting lost on my runs, it was kind of difficult to get lost this time, as my hotel rather dominated the skyline!! 


I also received a reminder of how far I have come (literally) over the past three years, since I decided to change my life, lose weight and get fit. One of the ways I have done this is by using a Fitbit, so on Friday I got my Great Wall badge, having gone the total length of the Great Wall of China, 5500 miles. It has made me think about where I started and the progress I have made – something I think we overlook too often, particularly when we suffer setbacks. I am so glad I made the change.


Overall, it has been a really positive week for my race preparation and even more so as I have now found my iPod – languishing in a pocket of my rucksack – but now I have a choice to make ahead of my race. To run with, or without. At this stage, I am leaning towards without. One week to make the decision.


















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